What can a brand do to differentiate itself in a crowded marketplace such as the sports accessory space. Would it be the brand story and brand attributes that are the winning ingredients to win in this hyper competitive market or would it have to be innovation.

Eventually every product or service will become a me-too commodity that competes on price alone. The pace of product and service innovation is now so accelerated that one can hardly determine who is first to market with a valuable new idea before a competitor knocks it off, adds a feature and lowers the price. A little over a decade ago the mantra of “continuous improvement” was what everybody in product development believed was fashionable thinking. Regardless of the product category, very soon everyone else will be offering those same features. To exploit full market potential, marketers are charged with broadening the appeal to the largest customer segment possible. This established trend has critical implications for marketers struggling with brand relevance and differentiation–especially in low emotional involvement categories like soft drinks, breakfast cereals, underwear, and car insurance. It is my belief it will be essential for marketers to realize that new products, no matter how innovative at their introduction, will become the accepted norm in the category at vastly discounted prices.
To lock onto relevant differentiation means to provide something that is highly valued and not in abundant supply. Innovate greater meanings not more function. The infinite value of product innovation is found in what the innovation means to people. In the face of this rapid commoditization of everything, marketers must buck this trend by using their collective creative imaginations to fashion a higher meaning around their products and services. Fruit of the Loom dominated men’s underwear – available everywhere for about $1 a pair until Calvin Klein un-commoditized the category by presenting the valuable idea that it is ok for men to feel and be sexy. When your brand or product provides new meanings to people, it automatically extends it is use value to people in such a way that price is no longer the issue and competitors are no longer relevant. To get “there” requires a dedicated and continuous creative effort to uncommoditize your value to people by proposing new meanings that separate your brand from the slush pile.
Many of us have been faced with what seemed like insurmountable hurdles to establish brand identity in market categories that have gravitated to price as the key driver – as you have mentioned. First, most people make decisions based on subjective criteria, not objective criteria. It is true that most shoppers in all categories think they are making purchase decisions based on a set of criteria that leads them to purchases of the “best” product for the price. However, when it comes down to which product consumers reach for, it is not always based on price, or perceived value. My second point is that given consumers make purchase decisions based on subject criteria, then why do marketers continue to focus messages on features, value, and specifications – these all fall in the mix of objective criteria. If marketers are not out trying to be everything to everybody, then I strongly suggest they focus efforts on messaging that supports the kind of experience they want consumers to have with their brand.
Besides if you do have any questions give me a call:

Answered 8 months ago

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